Macquarie, an Australian investment consortium involved in leasing U.S. toll roads, has begun acquiring newspapers in Texas, a move critics say is designed to silence grass-roots objection to the planned Trans-Texas Corridor.
That highway project is believed to be part of a much larger plan that eventually could, critics allege, tie the economies, lifestyles and even governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada together.
Halyard Capital just days ago announced the sale of its portfolio company, American Consolidated Media, which publishes 40 community newspapers and shopping publications in nine Texas and Oklahoma communities, to the Macquarie Media Group for $80 million.
Sal Costello, the founder of TexasTollParty.com and a vocal critic of the Texas Department of Transportation plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road parallel to Interstate 35, told WND the newspaper deal was “absurd.”
“Macquarie being allowed to buy these newspapers is just another con job,” said Costello, obviously upset at the acquisition. “Macquarie is buying our news organizations to hide the fact that they are stealing our land.”
On his blog, Costello had noted that the Macquarie purchase comes “after the ACM’s rural independent newspapers have been the most vocal opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor.”
“Countless articles over the past months and years peg the TTC as an eminent domain land grab. ACM’s publications had placed serious political pressure on the TTC,” he said. “The newspapers are the main communication tool for many of the rural Texas communities, with many citizens at risk of losing their homes and farms through eminent domain. Future TTC contracts are estimated to affect about one-half million acres of land, and 4,000 miles of Texas toll roads.”
According to the Public Private Partnerships section of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Macquarie is an investment partner along with Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., in the deal to lease the Chicago Skyway on a 99-year lease. The Chicago Skyway deal was concluded in August 2005 and was the first long-term lease of an existing public road in the United States. Cintra is a publicly-listed company headquartered in Spain, owned by the Madrid-based Groupo Ferrovial.
Macquarie is not involved in the Texas Trans-Texas Corridor financing. Cintra is the foreign investment capital group that is providing the funding for the TTC-35 project.
As reported previously by WND, Macquarie participated in the EuroMoney Seminar, entitled, North American PPP 2006: The Infrastructure Finance Conference,” a “networking” PPP conference held in New York City at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, September 19-20, 2006, at a cost of $2,500 per attendee.
On January 11, 2007, in a separate announcement, President Bush nominated David James Gribbin to be general counsel of the Department of Transportation. Gribbin previously had served as a division director for Macquarie in Washington, D.C.
Prior to this most recent nomination, Gribbins had been serving as General Counsel to the FHWA, a position then-DOT Secretary Norman Mineta appointed him to fill in 2004.
A spokesman from Macquarie told WND that Macquarie Media Group is not planning to change the editorial content of the American Consolidated Media publications. “A key part of the attraction of American Consolidated Media,” the spokesman told WND, “is that the ACM publications delivers news and stories that are of interest to the communities they serve.”
Asked whether the Macquarie Media Group acquired ACM to silence critics of PPP projects that Macquarie Infrastructure Group is pursuing in the United States, the spokesperson said, “No. Each division in the Macquarie Group has their own investment funds and makes their own investment decision. The Macquarie Media Group is focused on making media investments around the world. ACM is an attractive investment because their publications serve the local communities. The Macquarie Media Group will seek to grow the ACM portfolio, but not change their editorial direction.”
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, is among the leaders in Congress expressing alarm at the coordinated plans that appear to be moving the United States into and beyond “partnerships” with Mexico and Canada.
Asked about the Department of Transportation’s work with Dallas-based trade group NASCO, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition Inc., and the Texas Department of Transportation plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, Poe told WND “the NAFTA superhighway plans exist to move goods from Mexico through the United States to Canada. It appears to be another one of the open-border philosophies that chips away at American sovereignty, all in the name of so-called trade.”
He believes the public ought to be involved in such decisions, especially those states directly affected such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 40 to express the sense of Congress that the United States should not build a NAFTA superhighway system and should not enter into an agreement with Mexico and Canada to form a North American Union.
Many of the plans are being assembled under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, to which President Bush of the United States, President Fox of Mexico and Prime Minister Martin of Canada agreed in 2005.